LITTLE HOWLIN' WOLF
Little Howlin’ Wolf - Cool Truth
Solidarty Solidarnosc Records. [sic]
Distributed by Heresee [HS75 CD]
Here’s an oddball release thats been wallowing at the bottom of the review pile for far too long. I kept trying it on but when you’re deep into a TNB/Emeralds kind of jag its jarring blues wail never lasted too long. Bit by bit it eventually grew on me though. A little of research here a few more tracks there and then it hit me.
James Pobiega, under his Little Howlin’ Wolf moniker [he has more] seems to have spent the last forty years traveling the US making his own peculiar version of the Delta Blues - its the kind of music that fans of outsider music go mad for - a primitive blues and tribal thump mix of out there vocal and sax wailings all of which sound as if it was recorded at the end of a long corridor with the instruments up front and Pobiega at the back wailing away in tongues unknown. Via his own label he’s self released about 40 singles and lingered in relative obscurity. In the mid 90’s he disappeared off the radar altogether but then we got New Weird America and the music of old timers like Little Howlin’ Wolf began to make sense. Nautical Almanac took him under their wing, collated all his singles onto CDR and let the internet do the rest.
It’s a bizarre trip. Pobiega plays all the instruments; sax, harmonica, bass, marimbas, drums, flute, electric guitar, all of it in a loose fashion. His sax wails like Arthur Doyle, the marimba appears to be randomly struck, the guitar solos are single note walks up and down e strings. Hunt Song is one minute of Wolf singing along to a single tribal drum - he sounds like Idi Amin not making any sense. Bounty Song is a one minute forty seconds of Hunt Song in a slower form. Wolf sings in a style that renders his words almost indecipherable, on Shuk Schuk Shodi he whistles and claps along like a vagrant Bobby McFerrin. The longer blues excursions are like trips into the interior, bizarre journeys where drums are pounded and voices emerge from the undergrowth in a ‘the natives are getting restless’ manner.
What makes all this an even more out there experience is the fact that all these 12 tracks have been lifted straight from single to master disc with absolutely no tweaking at all. So you get to hear all the run in grooves, the run off grooves, the scratches and jumps. During Bounty Song there’s an audible jump in the recording, Shuk Shuck Shodi ends as if someone has just lifted the needle. Rather than detracting from the experience though this actually enhances it. Even the mis-spelling of Solidarity on the back sleeve seems to fit perfectly.